Tips to becoming a backyard astronomer
A heavenly display of “shooting stars” will soon light up the night sky!
The Geminid Meteor Shower will put on a show when it reaches its peak on the night December 13 into the wee morning hours of December 14.
In fact, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke says it could be the brightest shower this year.
He told Space.com there won’t be any moonlight to interfere with the Geminids this year.
Not only that, the individual meteors will come fast and furious.
During its peak, you should be able to see more than 1 per minute, reaching about 100 meteors per hour.
When to see them?
The best way to see the Geminds is to go outside between midnight and dawn Friday, Dec. 13 into Dec. 14.
Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.
Lie on your back and look straight up.
The best time to view will be around 2 a.m. local time, but they can be seen as early as 9 to 10 p.m.
The Geminids will put on a show all over the night’s sky.
If you look slightly away from the constellation Gemini, you’ll increase your chances of seeing meteors with longer “tails.”
Looking for a good place to watch? Try this>>
What am I looking at?
Meteors come from leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids.
In this case, we’re talking about a near-Earth object known as 3200 Phaethon.
When it comes around the sun, it leaves a dusty trail behind them.
Every year Earth passes through these debris trails.
These bits collide with our atmosphere and disintegrate, which create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.
The Geminids appear to come from the bright constellation Gemini. In the Northern Hemisphere, you can find Gemini by looking in the southwestern sky for the constellation Orion. That’s the one that has three stars in the hunter’s “belt.”
Tips for becoming a backyard astronomer:
Heartland Weekend asked Jennifer Wiseman for some advice on becoming a backyard astronomer.
Good news: you don’t need anything special to see the Perseid meteor shower.
- Just look up. You can see a ton with your naked eye. That list includes the Geminid Meteor Shower, Earth’s Moon, stars and more.
- Most important: a dark sky. This might be the most important tip. It is possible to catch a glimpse of a meteor or two from the suburbs. But to experience a true meteor shower, avoid city lights.
- Bring binoculars. You can see even more. Like the detail on our moon or a glimpse of Jupiter and its inner moons.
- Know your constellations. You can easily identify any of the constellations lighting up the night sky using apps like Sky Guide for Apple and Sky Map for Android.
- Dress appropriately. It can be chilly in the hours before dawn when you’re skywatching. So we suggest making sure you dress in layers. You might also bring a blanket and lawn chair to make yourself comfortable.